It's hard to blame any specific BBWAA voters for the failure to induct Craig Biggio into the Hall of Fame alongside Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas, but make no mistake, there is blame to go around. While he comes off more aggressively than he probably needs to -- and with just a dash of hyperbole -- the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman sums it up succinctly:
Biggio was left off 25.2 percent of ballots. To focus on one or two individual voters who did not check his name is the height of stupidity.— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) January 8, 2014
It's true: 25.2 percent of the voters cost Biggio his chance at immortality, at least this year, not just a couple of dudes. There were multiple reasons it happened, too, which is why we can't just yell at any single voter for it. Well, okay, we can yell at Murray Chass, but only because he's voting based on a Biggio/steroids conversation he thinks he remembers having one time. This isn't just a Blogger vs. Chass thing, either:
So Murray Chass says Biggio took steroids, one of his buddies believes him, and that keeps Biggio out. Despicable.— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) January 8, 2014
Kepner writes for a little publication you might have heard of called the New York Times, and is a BBWAA member himself. He's also been highly vocal about the need for Hall vote reform.
We could also get upset at Ken Gurnick for his Jack Morris-only ballot -- that'd give us the two votes we need to be angry! -- but even Gurnick is aware of the damage he could cause with his mentality, and stated that he would abstain from voting for the Hall of Fame going forward since, from here on out, the ballots are loaded with steroids era players he has no intention of voting for. That's admirable, even if it did help throw a wrench in Biggio's campaign in the present, and help muck up future ballots to boot. More on that in a moment.
We can also blame whomever Sir Blank Ballot is: according to the BBWAA's own Hall of Fame announcement, one of the 572 ballots submitted was blank, likely from someone who shares Gurnick's dislike of the 90s, but with less enthusiasm for Morris. It's idiotic that a blank ballot counts within the voting percentage: it contributes nothing, and produces nothing besides scorn for an institution and process that is constantly under fire already.
The real issue, though, is that voters can only select 10 players. More than anything, this is what cost Craig Biggio enshrinement in 2014. The Boston Herald's Michael Silverman dropped Biggio from his ballot this year only because of the sheer volume of other candidates to vote for. He wasn't alone, either, as Jon Becker, the Online Editorial Director for the Oakland Tribune, changed his vote at the last minute for Larry Walker instead of Biggio, whom he had voted for a year ago -- specifically because he could only vote for 10, and the strength of the newcomers pushed Biggio down the line.
If Biggio had simply made it last year, this wouldn't be a problem, but now he has to wait at least until 2015 for entry. The major issue the 2014 ballot exposed -- far more Hall-worthy candidates than voting slots -- won't slip back into the shadows any time soon, as Maddux, Glavine, and Thomas will be replaced on next winter's ballot by Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, and Pedro Martinez. In 2016, Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Edmonds, and Trevor Hoffman join the party. Things will still be crowded in 2017, when Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, and Ivan Rodriguez become eligible. There are controversial names on that list, just as there now, but they'll still get votes and take up space on limited ballots regardless.
Things are messy today in much the same way, and it's cost Biggio induction twice already. This 10-vote limit on ballots needs to be lifted, even if every single voter isn't going to use it: it's fine if a voter wants to be small Hall, but those who want to be large Hall aren't given that opportunity under the current system, and even small Hall voters can find plenty of worthwhile candidates among this crop of players. If it's not Biggio sitting out at the expense of others next year, it could be Mike Piazza, who received the fifth-most votes this time around, or it could be a newcomer to the ballot. Either way, it's not right, and more than anything, it's what needs to be fixed about Hall of Fame voting. A backlog has been created, and needs to be dealt with: raise the voting limits and let the math sort it out that way, instead of by letting players drop off the ballot or by making them wait even longer for Cooperstown's embrace.